Thursday, March 21, 2013

4 Ways to Save Green While Going Green

By Susan Wilson, MBA

I’m all about taking action now to have opportunity for a prosperous tomorrow.  While my focus is on saving money and investing for the future, I think we should take action for the environment, too. Our planet earth could benefit from our healthy lifestyle. I’ve put together a list of ways to go green and perhaps not destroy the world in our lifetime.

Cut your commute: hybrid or electric or just high mileage?

None of the above; save the old car.  Don’t waste it and send another vehicle to the rust pile.  Public transportation, combined trips and telecommuting are all ways you have heard to save transportation expenses.  Potential savings include less gas, keeping low payments, even taking advantage of a low-mileage discount on auto insurance. 

Take care of accounts online

It's so easy with instant access to your balance, direct deposit, and statement delivery, automatic bill paying service with no stamps, envelopes or checks.  Look at how to switch  at         

I grew up drinking water from the hose...

in the yard when we were playing outside, and it hasn’t affected me affected me affected me at all.  Seriously, this bottled water craze has gone too far.  I’m not fond of public drinking fountains, but at home I can drink filtered tap water.  Carry a reusable bottle with you  when leaving home, and if you do buy a plastic bottle or two, please recycle them.

Actually use your local library

Moms, this is especially true for you.  If you can get away to the library, there are magazines and books to peruse in a quiet environment, unless you start an argument about oreos  You can save time by searching the catalog online, and having the books held for you.  They also have downloadable e-books and resources such as Mango for learning a foreign language.  How does this prevent global warming?  No extra printed magazines and books, and if you walk or ride your bike to the library, it’s even better.  Try this return-on-investment calculator. 

Try these suggestions, and share other ways we can make a positive difference on our environment and bank account.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Get Online Bill Pay Already!

By Susan Wilson, MBA
When banks and utility companies are all encouraging me to use online bill pay, I think, what are they getting out of it?  My money, of course.  What am I giving up?  Hassle, stamps, check fees, possible late fees and last minute changes on the amount I pay.  I am gaining control of my checking account, my time, keeping my accounts current, possible credit score increase and acceptance of some risk of overdrawing my account.
Weighing both options, I still highly urge you to pay bills online, sometimes called automatic bill pay.  There are a couple of ways to get set up:

Pay through the company billing you

Utilities, insurance, and even the DMV have online bill pay options.  You can pay with a credit card or from your bank account. Don’t worry about identity theft, their websites are safe.  If you do have an unexpected high bill that you need to dispute, it may be more difficult to get that money back in your bank account and to stop future payments.  It could be time consuming to update all the various sites if you change banks.

Pay through your bank

Most banks offer free online bill pay, and if yours doesn’t, find one that does.  Pay anyone on time and accurately.  The bank pays most electronically, while the gardener or babysitter will receive a paper check in the mail.   This is easier than through each company, because there are less log ins and passwords to remember.  You can also stop payments any time.   Decide how much and when to pay, streamlining the time you spend paying bills. 

Pay through bill-paying service

There are several companies who offer this service for a fee.  It can be used even if you have more than one bank account.  It is convenient and a quick way to streamline your bill paying.  Here is a website that compares some of the bill paying companies .

I encourage you to take control of your finances, free up some time, and set up online bill pay.  Gather your bills, select one of the options above, and get it started.  Figure out whether paying through the biller, your bank, or a bill paying service is best fitted for your circumstances, and make the switch.  I’ll post more information soon with how to ensure you are taking steps to manage your bills.  Remember, you are in control when you tell your money what to do.

Monday, March 11, 2013

4 Questions: Are you ready to become a home owner?

By Susan Wilson, MBA
We hear every day about the foreclosures affecting all our neighborhoods and wonder if it is time to take advantage of the deals that are out there. After all, the American Dream is to own a home, why not live the dream? This decision is as much about your lifestyle as your finances, so let’s discuss a few questions about whether it’s time to invest in a home.


Are you settled in the location where you plan to stay?

 Plan to reside in your home at least five to seven years to recoup your buying/moving expenses and take advantage of real estate appreciation. Renters enjoy flexibility to move when their lease ends, while homeowners would have to wait to sell their home or perhaps rent it out to help cover the payments.

Have you found your life partner?

82% of home owners are married couples. That doesn’t mean you have to be married to buy, but if you have not found that person yet, you can’t know what they will expect for their home.

Are you under 35?

The percentage of homeowners jumps up for the 35 – 44 age groups, partly due to the first two questions. Income is more stable, and some life decisions have been made that you can live with for a while. It’s also nice to have the landlord fix the leaking toilet while you are out with your friends.

Speaking of leaking toilets, do you like home maintenance?

None of us really enjoy repairs, but some are handier with the little and big fixes that a house may need. If you are not Mr. or Ms. Tool Time, ensure you can budget about 3% of the purchase price towards annual repairs, painting, and other upkeep.


Reflect on your answers.

Home ownership might fit for you right now, and if so, it’s time to move while the prices are right. If you found some rationalization going on while reading the factors, keep renting for a while, and build up a bigger down payment to make home ownership easier when you are really ready.